The Hesitant Bride Meme/The Reluctant Bride Meme. Renaissance woman looking so done with life.

The Story Behind TikTok’s New Favorite 19th Century Painting

Classical art is a marvel to admire, but it’s also often the butt of jokes nowadays, and there are various social media accounts dedicated to just memeing these art pieces. If there’s one thing artists from that time period captured well, it’s the often goofy expressions of their subjects. Their beauty and humor outlived them, it seems, and many “cultured” people use these paintings for reactions to relatable scenarios.

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But a woman in one painting who looks done with life is making rounds on TikTok for her seemingly annoyed expression. She looks furious but unable to enact that rage, as if she is resigned to silent fury and passive aggression.


This viral painting, explained in 60 seconds. Who do you think she’s looking at? ? #arthistory #memes #arttok

♬ sonido original – Bryan Bojorquez | Música

The famous meme is actually a painting from the year 1866 called “The Hesitant Fiance,” or “The Reluctant Bride,” by the famed French painter Auguste Toulmouche. His subjects primarily comprised bourgeoisie women from French society, and he painted them in the style of realism. “Hesitant” doesn’t sound like the right term to describe this relatively irritated bride, since she looks more exasperated about the event about to happen more than anything else. Even if the title does this woman’s feelings very little justice, Toulmouche was able to capture just how upset she was at her arranged marriage.

It’s unclear who the woman in the painting is, but her image is now an iconic meme for many who can relate to her exasperation. TikTok users have come to use her image as a reaction to many scenarios that range from annoyance to spite. Putting dark humor into the fray, many women have used this painting as a means to express how done they are with bearing gendered responsibilities and growing up traumatized as a result.

Women might be freer from the troubles of arranged marriage these days, but the way women express themselves is still subject to criticism by society at large. If she could only see how many people could relate to her today and how much of an icon she’s become.

(featured image: Auguste Toulmouche)

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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) has been a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue since 2023. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy, she (happily) rejected law school in 2021 and has been a full-time content writer since. Vanessa is currently taking her Master's degree in Japanese Studies in hopes of deepening her understanding of the country's media culture in relation to pop culture, women, and queer people like herself. She speaks three languages but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.